Cabinet ministers will be “looking nervously over their shoulders” after Labour and the Liberal Democrats made huge gains in the local elections, according to a Lib Dem source.
Archie Mitchell www.independent.co.uk
The Lib Dems scored a significant win in levelling-up secretary Michael Gove’s Surrey Heath constituency, taking control of the council from the Conservatives.
The party declared it a “Michael Portillo” moment, in reference to the former cabinet minister who lost his Enfield Southgate seat during the 1997 general election. Mr Portillo’s defeat was seen as a pivotal result and an indication that New Labour would win the election by a landslide.
And deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden’s Hertsmere constituency, where he has a 21,313 majority, also fell victim to Labour and the Lib Dems. The Conservatives lost control of the council for the first time since 1999, with Labour and the Lib Dems picking up 13 seats between them.
Other senior Tories who came under pressure included former prime minister Theresa May, whose constituency of Maidenhead in Berkshire is covered by Windsor and Maidenhead council, where the Conservatives suffered heavy losses.
The Liberal Democrats took control of the council for the first time in 16 years, gaining 13 seats while the Tories lost 16.
In chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s South West Surrey constituency, the Lib Dems gained five seats, Labour picked up two, and the Conservatives lost eight.
And in a further sign of trouble brewing in the so-called blue wall of solidly Tory-backing areas, the Conservatives lost eight seats in Bath and North East Somerset, where former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg is the local MP.
The Lib Dems claimed to be ahead on vote share in North East Somerset, with 39.5 per cent, compared with the Tories on 26.3 per cent.
Other top Tories who saw their party lose control of councils in their constituencies include former party chair Nadhim Zahawi and justice secretary Robert Buckland.
And the Lib Dems gained six seats while the Tories lost four in Elmbridge, which is in former deputy PM Dominic Raab’s constituency.
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Conservative MPs across the blue wall will be petrified at these results,” while a party source added: “Senior Conservative ministers are now looking nervously over their shoulders at the Lib Dems.”
Rishi Sunak came under pressure from senior Conservatives to deliver on his flagship pledges after his own party chair described the disastrous local election results as a “wake-up call”.
The prime minister was dealt a major blow in his first election test as the Tories lost dozens of councils to Labour and the Lib Dems, leading to comparisons with the dire days of the mid-1990s.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the results mean Labour is on course for a majority government at the next general election.
The Conservatives lost more than 1,000 seats in total, exceeding even the most pessimistic forecasts for the party. And Labour is now the biggest party in local government, having gained more than 500 seats.